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Drug Trafficking Charges in Minnesota: What You Need to Know About Marijuana

Facing marijuana drug trafficking charges is a serious matter that can land you in jail or prison. Though the State of Minnesota has legalized recreational marijuana as of August 1st, 2023, marijuana sales and production without a license remain illegal.

An aggressive, experienced, and knowledgeable drug trafficking defense lawyer understands how to build a vigorous defense against these charges. In this article, we discuss why a strong defense is essential for securing case dismissals, winning at trial, and negotiating favorable plea bargains.

Drug Trafficking Marijuana: Definition and Example

Drug trafficking refers to a set of laws against the illegal production, distribution, transportation, and sale of controlled substances, including marijuana. This type of crime usually entails a criminal conspiracy, whether large or small. For example, a drug trafficking ring could involve a few students on a college campus or an international cartel smuggling large quantities of drugs to major cities across the country.

For instance, a criminal gang might cultivate a large-scale marijuana plantation in a forest. They carefully tend to the weeds to harvest their crop profitably, ensuring high yields. Once they harvest the marijuana, they then package it and conceal it for transportation. To distribute the product, the group uses a network of suppliers and dealers. Anyone involved in this operation commits drug trafficking.

Minnesota’s Drug Trafficking Laws and Penalties in Minnesota

Minnesota has stringent laws to combat drug trafficking. These laws aid law enforcement in disrupting and disbanding drug distribution networks. They also deter criminal activity through the prospect of long prison terms. The length of the term depends on the type and quantity of drugs involved, prior convictions, and other aggravating or mitigating factors.

Marijuana trafficking offenses are divided into five different degrees, each carrying differing punishments.

First Degree: Trafficking more than 100 kilograms (approximately 220 pounds) of marijuana is considered first-degree drug trafficking. This offense is punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and fines reaching up to $1 million.

Second Degree: Trafficking between 50 and 100 kilograms (approximately 110 to 220 pounds) of marijuana is considered second-degree drug trafficking. The maximum penalty for this offense is 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

Third Degree: Trafficking between 10 and 50 kilograms (approximately 22 to 110 pounds) of marijuana is classified as third-degree drug trafficking. This offense can result in a maximum prison term of 20 years and fines of up to $250,000.

Fourth Degree: Trafficking between 5 and 10 kilograms (approximately 11 to 22 pounds) of marijuana is categorized as fourth-degree drug trafficking. The maximum penalty for this offense is 15 years in prison and fines reaching up to $100,000.

Fifth Degree: Trafficking between 10 grams and 5 kilograms (approximately 0.35 ounces to 11 pounds) of marijuana falls under fifth-degree drug trafficking. This offense carries a maximum

sentence of 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Marijuana Drug Trafficking Defenses in Minnesota

When facing drug trafficking charges, defendants have the right to mount a legal defense. Various defenses can be effective in challenging the prosecution’s case, creating reasonable doubt, or negotiating a reduction in charges or penalties. It is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine the strongest defense strategy based on the specific circumstances of the case.

Here are some common drug trafficking defenses:

Lack of Knowledge

A lack of knowledge defense rests on the accused claim that he has no knowledge of the drugs and no involvement in drug trafficking.

For example, suppose a truck driver was transporting a shipment of home appliances when police pulled him over. Unbeknownst to him, the truck contained hidden compartments where marijuana was hidden. In that case, the truck driver can argue that he had no knowledge of the drugs’ presence and was not involved in drug trafficking.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

The unlawful search and seizure defense challenge the legality of law enforcement’s search for and seizure of evidence. If law enforcement violated the accused’s Fourth Amendment rights, the court suppresses the evidence resulting from the illegal search and seizure.

For example, suppose the police came to a suspect’s house without a warrant and barged in against the homeowner’s wishes. Since it was a warrantless search without consent, any evidence seized cannot be used in court.


Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces or coerces people into engaging in a crime they would not have otherwise committed. For this defense to succeed, the defendant must demonstrate that he had no predisposition to engage in drug trafficking and was pushed into it by law enforcement.

For example, suppose an undercover officer met another patron at a bar and tried to recruit him to sell drugs. The patron refuses, which should have ended the undercover officer’s investigation of this person. Instead, the officer threatens the person, telling him he must sell the drugs or face retaliation. Scared for his safety, the suspect agrees and is later arrested. This is entrapment.

Chain of Custody Issues

Chain of custody issues often leads to suppressed evidence and dismissed cases. This defense works when documentation and procedures used to track and maintain the integrity of evidence are ignored or disregarded. When a defense attorney sees gaps and inconsistencies in the chain of custody, he can raise doubts about the reliability and authenticity of the evidence and seek suppression of evidence and case dismissal.

For example, the prosecution may present a bag of marijuana as evidence. But during discovery, the defense attorney finds gaps in the chain of custody. As a result, it’s possible that the marijuana presented by the prosecution is not the same substance seized by police. Now unable to prove the veracity of its evidence, the state loses.

Violation of Miranda Rights

Once the police take a suspect into custody, they must inform them of their Miranda rights. If the accused was not informed of their Miranda rights, any statements made are inadmissible.

For example, during a police interrogation, a suspect may admit he was aware of drugs hidden within the vehicle he was riding in, making him culpable. But his attorney finds he was never informed of his Miranda rights. As a result, the judge suppresses the statement. If the state’s case cannot stand without the statement, it fails.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of these defenses can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the laws of the jurisdiction where the trial takes place. Consultation with a knowledgeable attorney is crucial for understanding which defense strategy may be the strongest in a particular case.

The Importance of an Aggressive Drug Trafficking Defense Lawyer

Minnesota law imposes harsh penalties for drug trafficking, including marijuana. The decriminalization of small quantities for personal use should never provide a false sense of security. If arrested for trafficking marijuana, you can end up in the Minnesota Department of Corrections for many years.

Because long-term incarceration is at stake, marijuana trafficking defendants need aggressive representation. Vigorous legal representation establishes defenses that put the prosecution back on its heels. Reasonable doubt is a high standard, and slipshod investigations and questionable evidence are enough to win a not-guilty verdict.

Drug trafficking lawyers play a pivotal role by providing the key aspects of vigorous representation:

Understanding the Nuances of Drug Trafficking Laws

Minnesota drug trafficking laws require the prosecution to prove specific points. An experienced defense lawyer knows where the weaknesses in the prosecution reside and exploits them mercilessly. Because they possess a deep understanding of these laws, they can come at the prosecution from multiple angles, giving the judge and jury ample reason to conclude the case is flawed and reasonable doubt exists.

Mitigating Extreme Penalties

Minnesota law creates a giant disparity between marijuana possession and trafficking. Simple possession ranges from a decriminalized citation to a misdemeanor. But marijuana trafficking puts you inside for a long time. A skilled defense lawyer works relentlessly to build a formidable defense. When your defense is compelling, the prosecution is far more willing to cut a deal that keeps the defendant free.

Case Dismissal or Acquittal at Trial

A sharp defense lawyer diligently investigates the case, reviews evidence, interviews witnesses, and finds every flaw in the prosecution’s case. Many times, a fatal flaw brought to the attention of the court induces the judge to dispose of the case. In other situations, a gaping hole in the prosecution’s theory allows the defense to establish reasonable doubt and win an acquittal at trial. The burden of proof is on the state, and defense lawyers ensure it always rests on the prosecutor’s shoulders.

Negotiating an Attractive Plea Bargain in Minnesota

Not every case is a trial case. In some situations, negotiating a plea bargain may be the most favorable option. For example, when the state’s case is compelling and aggravating factors, such as a long criminal record, portend an extended stay in the Minnesota Department of Corrections. By establishing a defense and mitigating factors, a defense attorney can convince the prosecution to acquiesce to an easier sentence, saving the client years of incarceration.

Drug trafficking charges carry long prison sentences in Minnesota. In addition to incarceration, they deliver the stigma of a felony record, may include steep fines, and can result in long periods of probation or parole. Once you are in prison, you miss out on everything going on in your former life, including spending time with family, working, saving money, and simply enjoying life.

An aggressive Minnesota drug trafficking defense lawyer is essential for defendants to navigate the legal maze and beat the case or serve an easier time. The best lawyers have one goal: achieving the best possible outcome for their clients. Whether this is done through a trial or plea bargaining depends on the case.

Talk to an Attorney About Drug Trafficking Charges in Minnesota

Contact Gerald Miller, P.A., a prominent Minneapolis law firm specializing in drug trafficking cases. We offer the vigorous representation needed to protect your rights, keep you free, and minimize the impact of the charges against you. Our experienced team tirelessly advocates for your defense, employing effective strategies to challenge the prosecution’s case and protect you from a ruinous prison sentence. To secure top-notch legal representation, Contact Gerald Miller, P.A.

Related Content: Marijuana Charges in Minneapolis: Understanding Your Legal Options

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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